Woman rescued from burning home one week before her 100th birthday

Posted at 6:01 PM, Jul 26, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-27 08:27:42-04

A prominent Temple resident's home burned down Sunday night, just one week before her 100th birthday.

Frances Palasota, 99, has owned Ramona Courtyard on West Avenue G since the early 1930s, her son Jimmy Palasota told News Channel 25. It used to be a popular motel and business, but it now operates as an apartment complex.

She had been living in a mobile home in the back of the complex since the home's purchase in the mid-1960s, her son said.

But on Sunday night, just before 10:30 p.m., the mobile home caught on fire.

Diane Saldua, one of Frances' caretakers who also lives across the street, saw the flames from her window.

"All I saw was [the] back patio. [It] was like a big ol' red globe," she said. "I screamed, 'We gotta get her out!'"

With the help of another caretaker who was on-duty at the time and a neighbor who also saw those flames, the three of them made their way into the burning structure.

"By the time we got to the living room, we got hit by smoke and we inhaled a lot of smoke. But we got her out. We had her wrapped up like a taco. We dragged her out," Saldua said.

They all made it out safely, including Frances.

“None of us [got] hurt, especially her," Saldua, who's been Frances' caretaker for more than four years, said. "She was our main one. And we were not going to leave her in there to burn alive."

News Channel 25 was not allowed to see or interview Frances because of the physical state she's in. She suffered a stroke seven years ago, and she has problems with her short-term memory, her son Jimmy said.

She's unaware she lost all of her belongings -- some were more than 70 years old.

"All that’s lost. Her life is there, so it’s nothing lost. If we got a chance to do it again, we’ll do it the same way. All of that stuff is just pictures," Jimmy said.

Before converting into an apartment complex, Ramona Courtyard was a very popular motel throughout the years. 

Jimmy said some of its guests included members of President Lyndon B. Johnson's family, other dignitaries, and even Bonnie and Clyde at one point. It was also home to the first copying machine in Temple, he said. Frances also operated an answering service and money service from the front office. 

She will now be staying in the back of that front office, where she managed the business for decades.

She turns 100 on Aug. 1.

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